TV Review: Hulu’s “Up Here” Delivers a Fun Musical Romantic-Comedy from “Frozen” Songwriters and “Hamilton” Director

Musical TV shows have always struggled to catch on. Sometimes it’s because the concept is bad (Cop Rock), other times it’s great and just fails to reach an audience (Smash, Galavant). And even the rare one that had its moment (Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist) seemed to struggle to hold its audience long-term. So why should Up Here be any different? Well, for starters, this eight-part musical rom-com series feels like it’s complete all on its own. And while there could be more, viewers can rest assured that when they start streaming on March 24th on Hulu, they won’t be left in the lurch.

(Patrick Harbron/Hulu)

(Patrick Harbron/Hulu)

The year is 1999 and the location is New York City. Enter Lindsay (Mae Whitman, Arrested Development), who just left her life behind to move to the city and become a writer. She meet-cutes with Miguel (Carlos Valdes, The Flash), who’s trying to make his fortune on Wall Street, and after one incredible night together, they find themselves in a gravitational pull to one another. Complicating matters is the fact that both Lindsay and Miguel have a trio of imaginary variants of people in their lives always interfering with their decisions. Oh yeah, and everybody sings!

Up Here is full of new, original songs from EGOT-winner Robert Lopez and his wife Kristen Anderson-Lopez, the musical geniuses behind Frozen and WandaVision. The songs all have their signature quality to them, but with an adult-aimed format to the series, the lyrics return to the lyrics of Robert’s earlier theatrical projects like The Book of Mormon and Avenue Q. At the same time, they also deliver powerful, heartfelt ballads that allow the series to mirror the dramedy arch of your typical romantic comedy.

Mae Whitman is given a vehicle to showcase her musical talents, which have remained largely dormant throughout her TV work. Carlos Valdes also returns to his musical theater roots in the role, having studied alongside Darren Criss in his college years. Rounding out the cast are some talented supporting players, including Lindsay’s imaginary friends (Katie Finneran, John Hodgman, Sophia Hammons) and Miguel’s (Emilia Suarez, Andréa Burns, Scott Porter). Both leads also come with a complicated ex, with George Hampe as Lindsay’s Ned and Julia McDermott as Miguel’s Fiona.

Hamilton director Thomas Kail is at the helm, using a mix of musical theater staging and lighting tricks married with conventional romantic-comedy cinematography to bring Up Here to life. When the series is funny, it’s laugh-out-loud funny. But it also lands all the notes with the dramatic elements. While not every song is necessarily a repeatable bop, there are a handful of standouts that will also make viewers want to repeat the eight-episode journey again (and stream the soundtrack).

I give Up Here 4 out of 5 Dr. Seuss-style dirty rhymes.

All eight episodes of Up Here stream Friday, March 24th, on Hulu.

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Alex Reif
Alex joined the Laughing Place team in 2014 and has been a lifelong Disney fan. His main beats for LP are Disney-branded movies, TV shows, books, music and toys. He recently became a member of the Television Critics Association (TCA).